The Soundtrack Of Life


Image Source: Baeble Music

I cannot let go of the song. I hear off-beats and syncopation in the metronomic click of the turn signal, and fill the spaces tapping on the steering wheel. An air-conditioner unit thrums on the street and I hear harmonies and counterpoint. The bells of the church ring and the overtones are out of tune and I cringe. I have studied and lived the music my whole life through listening and playing. I am conduit and grateful receiver.

The cloth of my childhood is patchwork record covers. Simon & Garfunkle, Barry Manilow, Joan Baez, Elvis, The Monkees, The Beach Boys, The Crew Cuts, Beethoven, The Carpenters, The Bee Gees, Star Wars, Saturday Night Fever, John Denver and The Muppets, K*Tel disco compilations, AC/DC, Ozzy, Van Halen, all obsessed over and absorbed like nutrients.

Grade school added a layer of metal and punk rock: Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, The Dead Kennedys, The Ramones. My first guitar at age 11, and hours and hours playing records and learning how to play. Passion charging from my soul to my fingertips. Big, rich, melodic sounds on the radio: The Cars, Journey, Madonna.

High school brought CD covers and a return to the underground: Smithereens, The Smiths, The Cure, Hoodoo Gurus, The Replacements. College found me studying jazz: Bird & Diz, Coltrane, Miles, Hawk and Newk. Every day since has found me loving all of the above.

“Logic” dictates that when one grows up and discovers classical, jazz, talk radio or Adult Contemporary, one puts aside the music of youth. I’ve never bought that, and I’ve never practiced it. I have changed tremendously, but the Alvin & The Chipmunks or Gordon Lightfoot or Black Flag record I loved when I was a kid has NOT changed. And it remains as critical and influential as it once was. So why not add Adult Contemporary to my repertoire, rather than abandoning aural pleasure?

I can’t let go of my past, nor do I want to. And I am better for it.

I cannot let go of the song. The records of my youth, the CDs of my developmental years, the MP3s of my adult years all weave a sonic narrative through my life. Every note is still there, informing my every move. Every memory has a soundtrack.

I walk down the hall at work to the beat of a song I heard when I was five. I drive toward sunsets that trigger sunsets and songs from when I was ten. My studies allow me to recognize the 12 notes used by (insert modern star here) as the same 12 notes used by The Beatles and the same 12 notes used by Woodie Guthrie and the same 12 notes used by Louis Armstrong and the same 12 notes used by Bach.

Trace the lineage, count the rings on the stump. It’s all there in my mind and heart. I have studied and lived the music my whole life through listening and playing. I am conduit, receiver and giver of the eternal song.

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44 comments
  1. ryeder said:

    Well, you age dated yourself with this…mine would be: the Beatles the Turtles and Peter, Paul and Mary up through Black Sabbath, Hendrix and Simon and Garfunkel. Where your begins, mine ends, in a symbolic representation of how music affected those early stages of growth. Excellent read….

  2. Ryeder, great to have you here, and thanks. Hendrix and Flo and Eddy and Sabbath are also huge influences on me. Circle of life, right?

  3. Sad Man's Tongue: Rockabilly Bar & Bistro - Prague said:

    Very nicely put :)

    • Thanks, man!

  4. Bravo!
    I believe this is the only thing I’ve ever seen written that gives equal weight to Gordon Lightfoot and Black flag.
    Another great piece, and one that really resonates with me too..

    • Nothing in common but the same 12 notes. *grin*

  5. metan said:

    Star Wars, The Muppets and AC/DC. You have just summed up my life…..

    Nice to see the Hoodoo Gurus in there :)

    • Hoodoos “I Want You Back”: greatest breakup song ever.

      • metan said:

        I love Aussie music (I’m not biased or anything you understand) I love Paul Kelly. His “To her door” is a great getting-back-together song!

      • Note to self…

  6. AgrippingLife said:

    This was like reading poetry. loved it. From one music lover to another, amen.

    • I will crank this comment to 11 and dance to it!

  7. Dance to the music…………………superb, BW!

    • You don’t want to see me dance, but for the sake of this comment, hells yeah!

  8. Inga said:

    oh, yes – every memory has a soundtrack! loved that :)

    • Awesome! So glad!!

  9. My parents alway played records…in fact, they still do occaionally, and then the growing up years…how the styles change.
    Now, I don’t listen to very much music because since having kids, my life seems to noisy already, but JoeHoover, El Guapo, sometimes Hotspur, and now you seem to be telling me to bring back the music into my life. I just listened to “Just Like Heaven” about 5 times due to Joe’s blog. Maybe having music playing will actually help the kids be less noisy. Sorry for writing a post in your comments. I will go think about this somewhere else. ;)

    • I love having you here, Hobbs, so post away! And yes, listen listen listen, passionately, completely, like the music is all you’ve got left. Good for what ails ya. ;)

  10. I like to listen to the music I grew up with, but only once in awhile, for nostalgia’s sake.
    I honestly prefer the music played on the younger stations today. American Top 40 kind of stuff.
    I know that I am an exception to the rule because most from my generation are still listening to those albums from their teenage years.
    I don’t know if it’s just that my taste continuously changes with the “fads” as they come and go…or if
    listening to Kiss and The Rolling Stones reminds me of my age. :-P

    • I’m about to commit heresy here: I hate KISS! The band sucks! Nothing but a bunch of wank. ;) And trust me: I can only take certain bands in very limited doses.

      • Actually, I only used Kiss as an example because I wanted to use a name I knew everyone would remember. The Stones was an obsession of mine (Mick Jagger in particular). Other than that, I liked a lot of the Top 40 stuff from back then as well. I guess you’d say I’m a Commercial Baby.

      • I ain’t gonna comment on their artistic vision or quality, but KISS hands down puts on the most engaged live show I’ve yet seen, and they do it consistently. I think their music is nice, not incredibly memorable, but do yourself a favor, see them live before you write them off completely.

      • I will gladly concede the live show, Guap. ;)

  11. I am so excited about where your work is going. Your language is full of life today. There’s almost an electric buzz coming off of this page. Love that.

    • I definitely always try for buzz!

      • When you really love a subject? It shows. This time your strong feelings about music— all music— are near-electrifying.

  12. Great post, Brian! I can relate because music has always been a fundamental part of my creative process. I write and doodle best when I have some sort of backing track streaming through my ears.

    This video (Magic Spells by Crystal Castles) captures this process best:

    • LOVE it!!!

  13. free penny press said:

    To quote Mr Wonder, “Songs in the key of life”
    much enjoyed this post Brian!

    • Naturally, I treasure that album…

  14. Great post!

    • Great to see you here, Robin, thanks!

      • :) Ah, I’m always around reading… but as that it’s usually at the end of the day, I’m not always the best commenter… You’re writing is amazing, however, and I really should comment more often.

      • *blush* Thank you so much.

  15. Reblogged this on ATA MOTEK.

  16. Hi Brian. I nominated you for the sunshine blog award. I hope you will accept and that you are having a great weekend! :)
    http://lavieeclectique.com/2012/03/25/hello-sunshine/

    • Lisa, thank you so much! I’m actually not doing peer awards anymore, NOTHing personal, but seriously, I’m touched that you would think of me. THANKS!

  17. K-Tel! Crappy Compilations! Thanks!

    • At your service!

      • Cheers Brian

  18. Rebecca Booth said:

    Wonderfully written and good taste in music! May you never grow out of the classics

    • Never!

  19. Paula said:

    About music. This. Yes. Well said!

    • You’re digging back on me! I barely remember this one, actually.

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